An Illini Place
Building the University of Illinois Campus
Sidebar 2.1: Lincoln Hall's Terra Cotta Panels
Sidebar 2.2: What's a Land Grant?
Sidebar 3.1: Illinois Brick
Sidebar 3.2: Historians of the Campus Plan
Sidebar 3.3: Georgian Revival, Illini Style
Sidebar 3.4: All the Presidents' Houses
Sidebar 5.1: Eminent Domain
Sidebar 5.2: The University Golf Courses
Sidebar 6.1: Research Park
Sidebar 8.1: Thomas Arkle Clark
Sidebar 8.2: Orchard Downs
Sidebar 8.3: The Christian Science Building
Lincoln Hall's Terra Cotta Panels
In 1909, the centennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth, the Illinois legislature gave the university $250,000 to build a hall for the study of the humanities. This four-story (attic included), 230-foot-long building was named Lincoln Hall to honor the adopted Illinoisan. It was intended as a shrine to the sixteenth president and decorated in such a way "that students and professors at work in this building, or even passing along the walks about it, should be in hourly and daily remembrance of what this man and his co-workers did for the American people."
Reinforcing this concept, the building's exterior is outlined with both carved portraits of Lincoln's associates and contemporaries and quotations from his speeches and writings. But it is the ten terra cotta panels above the second-story windows and flanking each side of the main entrance (facing the Quad) that are especially eye catching.
From left to right, the panels depict: Lincoln as a Rail Splitter, 1830; Lincoln as a River Boatman, 1831; Lincoln as the Circuit Rider, 1849; Lincoln-Douglas Debate, 1858; Lincoln's First Inaugural Address, 1861; "We Are Coming, Father Abraham, One Hundred Thousand Strong," 1861; Abraham Lincoln, the Savior of the Slave, 1863; Battlefield of Gettysburg, 1863; Surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, 1865; and The Soldier's Return, 1865.
The panels were designed and modeled by Kristian Schneider, chief of the artistic staff of the American Terra Cotta and Ceramic Company based in Chicago. But Schneider's work on Lincoln Hall came under fire. In April 1911 a group of art and architecture professors—including Newton Alonzo Wells, who decorated the Library (now Altgeld Hall)—inspected the single panel that had been installed and judged that it "was entirely out of place in such a position on the building." A vote was taken; six of seven members of the group declared the panel was not "at all worthwhile."
When U of I president Edmund James told William Gates, president of the American Terra Cotta and Ceramic Company, what the group had decided, the "Master of Terra Cotta" erupted. "You have a mighty fine faculty socially and educationally but they are too much for me as critics," Gates wrote James. "Unfortunately, Michael Angelo [sic], who might have been able to do this work is not now accessible and indeed it just occurs that it's just possible that if he had been compelled to submit to the Art Commission before placing his work, Italy might not today have some of her art treasures."
Schneider's work survived the critics' scorn and was on display for the thousands who attended the dedication of Lincoln Hall on February 12, 1913, although it had opened two years earlier. A hundred years later the panels were cleaned and repaired.
Lincoln Hall at the University of Illinois by John Hoffmann (2010, University of Illinois Press) is a full account of the building, which reopened in 2012 after major renovations inside and out and was rededicated one hundred years after the first dedication.
What's a Land Grant?
In the mid-nineteenth century, less than a hundred years since the nation's birth, the United States was rich in open land, thick forests, clean water, and other natural resources. But, as the rumblings of internecine conflict enveloped an increasingly fractured nation, the United States was poor in cash and people.
Attending college was beyond the means—or the desire—of most Americans. The nation's few colleges were sectarian, private and elite.
As the country headed inexorably into a terrible internal conflict, Jonathan Baldwin Turner, the father of the American land-grant movement, began to lay the groundwork for a federal-state partnership of higher education that would extend the benefits to schooling to a wider swath of citizens and to the national interest.
A Yale graduate, ordained Congregationalist minister, inventor, and botanist, J. B. Turner was a professor of literature and belles lettres at private Illinois College in Jacksonville, the state's first degree-granting college. In the early 1840s he had edited an anti-slavery newspaper. By the late 1840s, he had begun a twenty-year mission, proselytizing for scientific agricultural education, the counterpoint to folklore and habit. He created and nourished through correspondence and visits a wide network of college and university officials, state legislators, congressmen and senators, activist farmers, and newspaper editors and magazine writers from Oregon to Vermont. One supporter called Turner "the soul, spirit and battle axe" of the industrial education movement.
It would be twenty years before another Illinoisan, President Abraham Lincoln, would sign the historic land-grant act in the summer of 1862, barely a month after its lead sponsor, U.S. Rep. Justin S. Morrill (R-Vermont), finally forced a successful vote of legislation he first introduced in 1857.
There had been pushback by the Congress over giving away yet more federal land and evidence of corruption. Soldiers had received "land grants" in lieu of pensions; some 26 million acres were given to railroad companies as incentives to build more miles of track; and more than 68 million acres were transferred to support local governments, the common schools and other kinds of universities, and to encourage people to move to undeveloped regions. By contrast, Morrill's legislation proposed a paltry seven million acres.
A land grant is a simple proposition: the federal government gives—"grants"—a person, corporation, or local government land that can be used or sold for a specific purpose. The land-grant university model yielded some 480,000 acres for Illinois. In 1867 trustees of the Illinois Industrial University sold 380,000 acres for sixty-six cents an acre. They sold the remainder of their land grant, which was federal land in Minnesota, Kansas, and Nebraska, for about seventy cents an acre.
The typical U of I Georgian revival building has a signature look: horizontal profile, steeply pitched roof, dormers, punched windows, tall but flat chimneys, and, most especially, red brick walls with limestone trim.
A close look reveals mostly bricks of a particular dark red hue, visually broken by occasional black "smokers" that give the wall a rough texture and add interest. It's come to be called University Blend. And these bricks are laid horizontally in a pattern called Flemish bond: a brick laid lengthwise is followed by one laid edgewise and so on throughout the wall. Long, short, long, short, forming an X pattern in the brick bond.
With notable exceptions, such as the pink sandstone Altgeld Hall and the Bedford limestone University High School, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is resolutely a brick-and-mortar campus. For good reason. The State of Illinois is rich in clay and shale, the two principal materials used to make brick. When baked for hours in a kiln at temperatures from 1,600 to 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit, the clay or shale particles fuse together to form the solid, durable brick that builders the world over love. Different minerals within the clay or shale account for the varied colors of brick. The iron mineral hematite, for example, gives bricks their characteristic reddish color.
In its early years the university frequently ran into a brick wall when it came to brick quality. The school's first structure—the unimaginatively named University Building, nicknamed "The Elephant"—was constructed of clay brick, the clay having been excavated from the very building site. When a tornado struck the ramshackle University Building in the spring of 1880, the result was predictable.
"One would think that the wind which could blow down a brick wall was some kind of wind," the Illini remarked, "but the fact is that the wall in question was as poorly constructed as it well could be." Inadequate building materials didn't help matters either. University Hall, successor to the University Building, experienced structural issues partly caused by "soft brick"—brick that hadn't been baked at high-enough temperatures. During the construction of both the Natural History Building and Engineering Hall, Nathan Ricker rejected several carloads of brick that wasn't up to snuff because of its softness.
During the early part of the twentieth century, a local Urbana firm—the Sheldon Brick Company —supplied most of the university's brick. In the 1920s the Western Brick Company, of Danville, Illinois, took over the number 1 position. One of the largest brickyards in the world at the time, Western, in its heyday, employed some eight hundred people in three plants and churned out 150 million bricks annually. It was only thirty miles east of the campus, making transport of heavy loads doable.
Western's arrival on the U of I campus scene in 1922–23 couldn't have come at a better moment for its business. Charles Platt had just determined that Georgian revival would be the U of I's signature architectural style, and Georgian revival meant red brick—and lots of it. Western's first big University of Illinois contract was for Memorial Stadium in 1922–23, and in the succeeding years the U of I became Western's largest customer, typically using a million or so of its bricks each year until the 1970s. After Western went out of business in 1974, other firms filled the void. Streator Brick Inc., for example, manufactured the brick for the mammoth Beckman Institute. Nearly a million bricks were laid at Beckman. At one point, the institute's construction manager found fault with the exterior brickwork and insisted it be redone. It was.
Over the decades, Western had furnished the university with brick having six or seven shades. The predominant color, though, was called "University Blend"—"a dark run, with a few black smokers."
The campus takes its brick seriously. Architect Ernest Stouffer in 1939 called the state architect's office to complain that the brick being applied to the U of I Natural Resources Building was "Chicago common" brick, full of lime balls and other imperfections, and not the campus-specified shale brick. A transcript of the conversation shows the Springfield bureaucrat admitting the state office formerly specified shale brick "until we were climbed all over by the brick associations. . . . They insisted on having a share of the business."
Brick color remains an important attribute of Urbana-Champaign campus buildings. The university's official Design Guidelines specify that brick on all new buildings must be like that on David Kinley Hall or the equivalent ("old campus"); the Illini Union Bookstore or the equivalent ("contemporary campus"); or the Beckman Institute ("`Beckman' blend," which is supposed to be "orange and blue."). Proposed brick blends must be approved by the director of the Facilities and Services Planning Division.
Historians of the Campus Plan
It was 1919, and the university suffered through the building depression brought on by World War I. But supervising architect James M. White prepared for the inevitable rebound. He tapped Leon Deming Tilton, a landscape architect in White's office, for a dual assignment: draw up a new campus plan and write a history of the growth and development of the university.
Tilton had earned a U of I degree in landscape gardening in 1915, while he lettered in track, belonged to Beta Theta Pi and the Mawanda honor society, and was first president of his senior class. The East St. Louis native finished the plan, generally known as the White Plan, in August 1919, and a draft of his "History of the Growth and Development of the Campus of the University of Illinois" four months later.
White presented Tilton's fifteen-thousand-word history to the board of trustees on January 16, 1920, although it did not fully meet White's expectations. "This history is not in final form, but is as complete as time would permit," the supervising architect told acting president David Kinley the month before. "We have some additions to make, and in order to be complete it should be illustrated, but it would take considerable time to prepare suitable illustrations showing the various stages of campus development." Ex-president Edmund J. James also was also not entirely happy. "It does not quite do me justice but that is a secondary matter," James wrote. Still, James urged White to publish it in book form and print a couple of hundred copies. White believed there was little chance the history would be printed, so instead he had twenty manuscript copies of it made.
Tilton left the university for a job with a St. Louis city planning firm while White lamented his office was shrinking for lack planned construction work. In no time David Kinley's massive building boom transformed the school, shaping the south campus along lines dictated by the renowned architect Charles Platt. As the decade of the 1920s closed and Kinley's time as university president waned, he took a personal interest in seeing Tilton's history published.
Tilton's original manuscript was sorely out of date: the campus had grown and changed enormously since 1919. The update fell to Thomas Edward O'Donnell, an assistant professor of architecture. A native of Olney in south-central Illinois, O'Donnell earned a bachelor's degree in architecture from the university in 1913 and a master's in 1925. As an undergrad Donnell helped found Archus, an architectural fraternity that would morph into Alpha Rho Chi. Beginning in August 1928, the assistant professor spent twelve weeks updating and enlarging Tilton's history, earning $800 for the work.
Kinley himself prodded the work along, giving such editorial guidance as suggesting chapters should be about the same length. In less than two years, the book was revised, edited, and published by the University of Illinois Press. The 212-page History of the Growth and Development of the Campus of the University of Illinois had a press run of two thousand at a cost of around $2,000 in time for the June 1930 commencement. Kinley had pushed for this deadline: he was about to retire from the university presidency, and his achievements as a campus builder would be enshrined in book form. Through his strong support of the Platt Plan, Kinley had left his mark on the school. "I am confident that the main outlines of the South Campus . . . are fixed for years to come," he wrote in the book's introduction.
The book, which is out of print, is a comprehensive treatment of the first sixty-three years of campus planning, architecture, and growth at the University of Illinois; it includes full transcripts of many letters and reports.
Thomas Edward O'Donnell died in 1964 at age seventy-eight after thirty-six years as an instructor and professor at the university. A collector of Lincolniana, O'Donnell amassed an impressive library of some three hundred books and four hundred pamphlets related to the sixteenth president.
Leon Deming Tilton went on to a distinguished career as a nationally recognized city planner and was San Francisco's director of city planning from 1942 until 1946. He died in 1949 at age fifty-nine. Tilton remained a devoted Illini all of his life. In 1947 he even bet on the Illini football team in its Rose Bowl matchup against the heavily favored UCLA Bruins. "It was indeed a happy occasion when I took the money away from the UCLA alumni," he later reported. "They were suckers, and were so confident I got excellent odds."
From era to era, quad to quad, and building to building the "look" of the Urbana-Champaign campus is obvious, though not uniform.
Lots of red brick, with occasional horizontal lines or courses of limestone. Lots of steeply pitched green slate roofs from which push out dormers. Chimneys galore—fake though they are. White trim on windows that are set into plain limestone. Simple doorways. This combination of features adds up to Georgian revival or neo-Georgian style that dominates the campus. It's familiar and comfortable.
We can thank a conservative New Yorker for a remarkable 1922 plan that clustered massive buildings, such as the Library and Mumford Hall, into what seemed like neighborhoods: monumental on the public side, more intimate and human as they looked into courtyards.
But Charles Platt's most enduring handprint is persuading university leadership and trustees that the campus needed a singular style starting with the development of the South Campus, as the area south of the Auditorium was called. What was then the proposed new Agriculture Building (Mumford Hall) would set the standard for the south side, where growth was headed.
But styles change, and so has the interpretation or, indeed, the very essence of a building design layered on the campus nearly a century ago. When campus leaders and then the board of trustees approved his modern Education Building design in 1963, architect A. Richard Williams exulted that "the yoke of Neo-Georgian conformity was broken."
Many of the later Platt buildings (he designed eleven in all) at the U of I exaggerate the more authentic style of the mid-Atlantic shore area—think Colonial Williamsburg—and New England, according to Historic Preservation Architect Melvyn Skvarla. These later structures are larger, taller, and more monumental . . . and pretentious.
Still, blurred features of Georgian revival pop up in almost every new building, albeit in subtle ways: Illinois brick, limestone, set-in windows, pitched roofs, simple doors, and so on.
All the Presidents' Houses
When Harry Chase became the president of the University of Illinois in 1930, the school had sixty-three years of history behind it. By then, the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois owned dozens of buildings on a sprawling campus and boasted an enrollment of 12,413 full-time regular students. Only the University of California, Columbia University, and New York University had more students. Just 27 percent of the U of I's students were female in 1930: not only an indicator of the times, this skewed enrollment also reflected the university's prominence in engineering, agriculture, and chemistry—fields dominated by men.
The 1920s had been a landmark decade for the University of Illinois. While enrollments soared and Harold "Red" Grange galloped, President David Kinley—Chase's predecessor—oversaw a massive building program that forever altered the face of the campus. Under the guidance of the renowned New York architect Charles A. Platt, the university adopted a Georgian style of architecture for its buildings and began planning a new quadrangle south of the Auditorium. Platt and university supervising architect James White would be the principal driving forces behind the construction of another notable campus building: the President's House on Florida Avenue, now called "711."
"The Big Old Gregory House"
The first university president's house was built shortly after the founding of the Illinois Industrial University in 1867. An 1870 campus map shows Dr. John Milton Gregory—the university's first regent (this title would later be changed to president)—living in a home located at 709 Mount Hope Avenue, later known as 709 South Fourth Street, in Champaign. This is the first U of I president's house. Built in the Italianate style, the structure featured a cupola, arched windows flanking the doorway, and a trio of arched windows on the second floor. The university did not furnish Dr. Gregory with this home: he purchased it with his own money. Gregory frequently entertained in his home, and the members of the faculty were weekly visitors. "We were all comfortably seated in one room," Nathan Ricker, longtime U of I architecture professor, recalled in 1918.
Gregory left the university in 1880, but his picturesque home stood for many years afterward, "an object of interest to visitors because of its unusual appearance and surroundings," according to the Daily Illini. In 1915 the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity acquired the "big old Gregory house." This is ironic because Gregory steadfastly opposed fraternities as undemocratic. Fraternity member Bill Shaw later remembered the structure as being in surprisingly "very good condition" with a brick exterior that was painted yellow. The first floor was divided into a living room, called "the most popular room in the house," a rear dining room, and small parlors. For Shaw, two massive fireplaces constituted the most impressive feature of the home. The residence accommodated about twenty Alpha Delta Phi members, some of whom slept in the attic. Shaw said these unfortunate attic-dwellers wore "two or three pajamas in the winter because the windows in the cupola . . . were always open, summer and winter." In 1923 the fraternity decided to demolish the building because of "tenant limitations." In short, Alpha Delta Phi had outgrown the smallish structure.
President Draper's Dream Home
Selim Peabody, the second university regent, also lived in the Fourth Street home. Following his resignation in 1891, Acting Regent Thomas J. Burrill, a professor of botany, and the board of trustees began a long search for Peabody's successor. In 1894 Andrew S. Draper, the Cleveland superintendent of public instruction, was offered the university presidency.
Draper didn't immediately say yes: among other things, he wanted a new president's home, the Fourth Street structure apparently not measuring up to his standards. It was, however, an open question whether the board of trustees would dare to seek money for a president's house from the historically stingy Illinois legislature and in a bad economy. "Now as to the attitude of the Board toward a President's residence," the guardedly optimistic Trustee James Armstrong reported to Draper in April 1894, "I shall bring it up for a vote at our next meeting as to the desirability of our including such an asking of the next Legislature. It might be well for me to write to some of our Board and see how they stand. I think I can get them committed to it now especially since you have spoken of it as a consideration in making up your mind. It certainly is an important factor in the efficiency of the Pres. of the University. This state can well afford to put ten or twenty thousand dollars to such a house as not."
Draper ultimately accepted the presidency, and the board of trustees agreed to seek money for a president's house from the legislature. At a critical point in the 1895 campaign for legislative appropriations, however, Draper was forced to choose between money for a new house or for a new, badly needed library, and he opted for the library. But trustees pressed ahead with the president's house project, raising money for it through the sale of university-owned land.
On June 27, 1895, the trustees authorized the construction of the president's residence on a site "directly west of Engineering Hall, and west of the main avenue of the campus, or elsewhere." Draper would select the corner of Wright and Green Streets as the structure's site. Solon S. Beman of Chicago was hired as architect. Beman had a good reputation; he had designed the company town of Pullman—then much in the news, thanks to the bitter railway strike the previous year.
Costing $15,000, the new president's house officially opened in March 1896. During the housewarming, Draper and his wife, Abbie Louise, and members of the board received guests while stationed near folding doors in the back parlor. The visitors—mostly faculty members—were served ice cream and lemonade, and the Gossett Mandolin orchestra furnished the entertainment. Ferns and flowers—roses and carnations—added color to the scene. A local reporter deemed the affair to be "entirely charming, leaving nothing to be desired."
The New England colonial-style house featured a veranda thirteen-feet deep and sixty-four-feet-long running across the front and around the sides of the home. Ionic pillars supported the veranda's roof. The Champaign Daily Gazette offered a vivid description of the residence's interior:
Passing through the front vestibule which is brilliant with beveled plate, the visitor enters the main hall, which runs through the center of the house and terminates in a grand stairway with a broad landing. The ceiling, elliptical in design, forms just in front of the stairway, an architrave supported by Ionic oak columns, above which is the University badge worked into the fresco decorations.
In addition to the main hall, the first floor contained a library, dining room, parlors, servants' sitting room, pantry, kitchen, and butler's pantry. The second story had six bedrooms, a serving room, and two bathrooms. The local paper noted that each room was decorated in a different color: red, blue, pink, and green.
The home was an impressive structure, especially for a smallish midwestern town in the Gilded Age. "This house was, indeed, outstanding," C. C. Burford asserted. "It was always kept meticulously white. Freshmen, especially from rural areas and small towns, gasped when they beheld this mansion."
In 1904 the board of trustees established a tradition by ruling that the house was one of the perquisites of the university presidency. The board formally declared that "the President's House be furnished [to] the President in proper condition, free of charge, with light, fuel, water, and care of grounds" and that "the residence be kept in repair by the Board." In addition, the Board authorized the expenditure of $2,000 for furniture and furnishings "to be selected by the President." (Interestingly, James White later maintained that "the furnishing of the house by the University did not extend above the first floor.") Thanks to this decision, no future university presidents would be forced to rely on their personal means to finance a home, as had been the case with John Milton Gregory.
Under Draper and his successor, Edmund Janes James (1904–20), the president's house served as a center of campus social life. Draper would often deliver rousing speeches to the students from the home's veranda following sporting events. Important guests were entertained at the house and frequently stayed the night there because of a lack of adequate hotels in Urbana-Champaign. "During the Draper and James administrations," a source maintained, "the mansion was the scene of gracious living and formal dinners and receptions—social life on campus reached its then highest plane." This era of "gracious living and formal dinners" came to an abrupt end with the entry of the United States into World War I.
Shortly after his wife Margaret's death in 1914, Edmund James seems to have begun looking for a new home. In February 1917 University Supervising Architect James White suggested to the president that the house of the departing Dean of Engineering W. F. M. Goss would make a "very desirable president's residence": "It is in excellent repair and the entire property represents an investment of between $15,000 and $16,000." Negotiating with the hard-bargaining Goss, White secured for the university the residence at 1203 West Nevada Street for $16,500.
James was sad to leave the house at Wright and Green. "There are associations about the campus house that make me loath to leave," he told a Daily Illini reporter in 1917. Confiding to his diary on September 5 of that year, James wrote: "Last night in the `President's House' on the campus of the University of Illinois. Have lived longer in this house than in any other occupied by me thus far." White had indicated to James that the home could "be used to excellent advantage for University purposes." And it would be for the next thirty years. During the World War I years, the YMCA took up quarters in the mansion, its building on the corner of John and Wright Streets having been turned over to the U. S. Army as an aviation ground school. Following the war, the university's Health Services Center occupied the former president's house. In 1947,Draper's dream home was razed to make way for Everitt Laboratory, the main electrical engineering building for decades.
The Nevada Street House
James retired as president in 1920 and was succeeded by David Kinley (1920–30), a twenty-seven-year veteran of the U of I faculty. As president, Kinley lived in the 1203 West Nevada Street house, which had been designed by Temple and Boroughs of Davenport, Iowa. Writing for Illinois magazine in October 1917, L. Logan Smith deemed the exterior to be reminiscent of an "old English type of house," with "its many gables, its windows with many small panes and its wide, low eaves, which cast very deep shadows." The two-story stucco-and-timber house was completely surrounded by shrubbery and by vines "that are slowly feeling their way up the corners and around the windows." The magazine writer found the interior to be of equal interest. "On entering the reception hall through a broad doorway leading from the vestibule," Smith reported, "you at once are attracted by the richness of the light coming from the two large art glass windows on the landing of the broad stairs. This soft yellow light, combined with the warmth afforded by the oriental rugs in shades of dull reds, yellows, and blues, offers a warmth of hospitality in character with such a room." The house had eight rooms, including a spacious living room with a red-brick fireplace. In its future incarnations, the structure would house the School of Music annex and later would be used by the Department of Landscape Architecture. The building still stands today as La Casa Cultural Latina.
Kinley was clearly unhappy with certain aspects of the Nevada Street house from an early date. In September 1921 he complained to Supervising Architect White about the residence's garden. "Since the President's house is now becoming the focus of social life for our University people," Kinley wrote White, "it will be necessary to do something more with the garden in the rear of the house." The president went on to suggest that "seating accommodations" be provided "so that people can go on the lawn and sit out-doors." In March of the following year, with no action apparently yet having been taken, Kinley reminded White of his desire for outdoor seating: "I missed very greatly last spring and fall the opportunity to sit out of doors as I have been long accustomed to do. Would it not be possible to put some stone or cement benches in the back yard?"
A "Suitable" President's Residence
In the early 1920s Kinley's dissatisfaction with the Nevada Street house grew so great that he began to vigorously advocate the construction of a new president's home. He told the trustees that "the present house was entirely inadequate, and that the official social duties of the President could not be properly done without a new house." The secretary of the board of trustees went so far as to claim that for a period of years "the President's house was the subject of informal discussion by the Board at nearly every meeting, usually at luncheon."
But the board took no official action on the matter of a new president's residence until June 10, 1927, when, at the urging of Kinley, the board's Committee on Buildings and Grounds was told to examine the issue. Six months later, on January 4, 1928, the committee endorsed the idea of a "suitable" president's house and advised that the New York architect Charles A. Platt suggest a location for the home and draw up preliminary plans for it in conjunction with James White.
It was slow going. For almost two years the board deferred action on the question; trustees couldn't agree on a location for the house. And, without a site, Platt could not produce final designs for the home. "The position of the President's house is, of course, one of the most important things to be determined upon," Charles Platt said early in 1928, "and I do not think it can be settled except as a part of the whole, preliminary plans will follow as soon as possible after its site has been settled upon."
The committee failed to act for more than a year, so Kinley resolved to take matters into his own hands. As he saw it, the need for a new president's house was more urgent than ever because he had decided to retire and doubted the school could obtain "a satisfactory president without a house commensurate with the requirements of the University."
The president forced the issue that fall. "I am dropping this note just to say that if anything is to be done about a new house for an incoming President action should be taken at once," he wrote trustees Merle Trees and George Barr, of the Committee on Buildings and Grounds on October 8, 1929. "As you understand, I do not wish to raise this matter in the Board Meeting. I am very decidedly of the opinion, however, that my successor should have more adequate provisions and larger conveniences than have been afforded Mrs. Kinley and myself." As a further inducement to action, Kinley—an economist—indicated that he had arranged things financially so that it was "possible for the Board to appropriate $50,000 now for the purpose." In fact, Kinley's 1929–30 state appropriation was $12 million, the most it would be for the next ten years.
Kinley's gambit worked: the board at its next meeting ordered that committee to report in November on the location and plans for the president's house. Kinley had made it clear to the board that he believed the residence should contain roughly sixteen rooms. It was also decided that the board should not spend more than $100,000 on the structure.
The matter was now with the members of the Building and Grounds Committee; the trustees had to choose between two proposed sites for the president's house—one just south of the University Forestry and one northwest of the Horticulture Field Laboratory, near Orchard Street and Florida Avenue. A stalemate ensued. The final decision was postponed until after the November board of trustees meeting. On December 4, 1929, the committee again failed to reach a consensus and gave up, reporting to the board that its members were divided on the question of a location. Undeterred, the full board put the issue to a vote, and the Horticulture Field Laboratory site carried the day in a 4-2 decision, with two trustees abstaining. (One trustee appears to have been absent.) The matter was somewhat mysteriously reconsidered at the December 12 board meeting, and the Horticulture Field Laboratory site again won out—this time in a 5-4 vote.
Kinley's opinion probably ensured the victory of this particular location. The president had told Trustee George Barr that he opposed the site south of the Forestry (now Illini Grove) because of "its proximity to the planned fraternity house group." The Horticulture Field Laboratory site had an additional advantage—an aesthetic one: this twenty-acre tract of land had been set apart for the creation of an arboretum. As a result, the board informed future President Harry Chase (1930–33), "the house would therefore obtain a beautiful background which could scarcely be developed in any other area."
Another contentious question facing the board was over the appointment of Charles A. Platt as the principal architect of the president's house. Trustee George Barr, for one, was "just a little inclined" not to favor Platt's employment. A "comfortably well to do" woman had offered Barr her view of what a university president's house should be like. "I hope," she said, "you will build a comfortable residence for the President, not too elaborate so as to make his family appear too exclusive to the faculty and students, and yet dignified and in keeping with the importance of the President's position, and bearing in mind that a big house is a big burden and a considerable expense." Barr fully agreed with this woman and took away the following lesson from her statement: "I think we may be more likely to make a mistake in providing too elaborate a home for the President than we are to be too conservative. The University enjoys an excellent standing in the public mind. We must not do anything that might suggest extravagance or exclusiveness in the home and life of the President of the University."
Barr was worried that Charles Platt—a favorite architect of the East Coast elite—might not share his conservative views and those of the "comfortably well to do" woman. "Mr. Platt," Barr said in a letter to James White, "might have difficulty in separating in his mind a standard of living that must prevail with the President of the University of Illinois and the standard of living of a wealthy family, building a country home." Despite Barr's concerns, the board appointed Platt as the residence's architect at a salary of $4,000.
It is not known for sure if Barr's fears of an overly extravagant home were influenced by the current state of the U.S. economy. On October 29, 1929, the stock market crashed, helping spark the Great Depression. Despite the worsening economic conditions, the board of trustees pressed ahead with the president's house and in January 1930 approved an initial appropriation of $50,000 for the structure. The final price tag for the residence would be $152,176.22; the furnishings would cost another $43,324.36. (The university owned the land.)
Thanks to Kinley's "financial arrangements," the project could proceed without the assistance of the Illinois General Assembly. Kinley was in a hurry to get the residence built. According to Trustee Barr, in a letter to new president Harry Chase, "President Kinley and . . . some of the other members of the Board felt that we should not wait until after the Legislature meets next year and that we could arrange to take care of the cost out of other funds. (These so-called reserve and contingent funds included money from fees, sales, and other nonlegislative sources.) Kinley intended to bypass a legislature that had once failed to fully fund President Draper's house and that would likely balk at bankrolling a sixteen-room mansion at the height of the greatest economic collapse in U.S. history.
Platt's revised plans for the president's house were approved early in 1930, and the building contracts were awarded that September. Construction on the home began shortly after that. The timing couldn't have been worse, as Harry Chase recognized. "I am sure that in private you must have felt that it would have been awfully nice if this [the president's house project] had been done a little earlier when stocks were up and everybody was happy," Chase confided to Barr in September 1931 after the mansion was nearly completed. "However, she is done and if we don't all lose our jobs on account of its having been done, I think we are going to live to be proud of it."
No one lost their jobs, but U of I officials took heat from the Illinois General Assembly for the house, furnishings, and landscaping/horticulture as the Great Depression deepened. A state representative from Dixon asked the university comptroller to provide him a thorough accounting of those costs, which is why we know from the May 11, 1933, journal of the Illinois House of Representatives that a commode cost $140, a kneehole desk $217.40, a pair of silver-finish andirons $60, two porcelain ash trays $20, and eighteen plates $164.30. Every item from drapes to rugs, linens to dishes is itemized.
Chase left the university presidency that year for one at New York University, and successive presidents and their families have lived in and used the house for entertainment, faculty meetings and, as one president put it, to soften the blow of bad news by delivering it in a lovely setting.
As a creature of the state, the University of Illinois has the power of eminent domain. This extraordinary authority gives the board of trustees the right to expropriate private property without the owner's consent so long as there is good reason and just financial compensation.
Barring a voluntary deal between a willing buyer and seller, the university can seek to "condemn" property it wants and let a judge or jury decide the fair market value the unwilling seller will get. In its early years the university rarely used this power. Instead, the U of I typically acquired land and other real property by voluntary purchase or outright gifts.
In one of its earliest uses of eminent domain, the university filed a suit in 1914 to condemn three properties along Nevada Street in Urbana's Forestry Heights Addition. A Champaign County jury awarded the property owners (Henry Rietz, Nellie Walton, and Charles Walcott) $3,500 each for their seized land.
In 1925 the university acquired through eminent domain forty-six acres near Memorial Stadium and east of the Illinois Central tracks. Owner J. F. Hessel received $125,000. "The land is needed in the work of the University," according to board of trustees minutes. "Our (Agricultural) Experiment Station people need more land and this should be turned over to them for some of their purposes as soon as we get it. It will be needed also for purposes of physical education in so far as, and when, it is not in use for agricultural purposes and in the not distant future it will be needed for buildings."
This need for land grew inexorably. Starting in the late 1950s, the David Dodds Henry administration launched an ambitious building program, and an expanding university exercised the right of eminent domain more often. In 1957, for example, trustees authorized a condemnation suit against Cyrus and Maxine Vaughn, owners of property at 614 East John Street, a block off the main Quad, to make way for a student services building. The following year a jury awarded the Vaughns nearly $50,000 and, although counsel for the university thought the figure was too high, U of I officials agreed to abide by the jury award after a motion for a new trial was denied.
More recently, the university has invoked its right of eminent domain for surface parking lots—which later can be built on. In 1991, for instance, the board of trustees gave the go-ahead to acquire three properties on West Clark Street (1107, 1109, and 1111) through formal condemnation proceedings. These sites were to be used for parking lots until a structure could be built.
In 2007 the Illinois legislature gave the university's board of trustees wider power to employ "quick-take" in eminent domain cases. Unlike standard eminent domain, quick-take lets the university take full possession of a condemned property before the case is settled by a jury, a judge, or voluntary agreement. The U of I first sought and used this extraordinary power in the mid-1980s, when it assembled land for the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.
The University Golf Courses
The first university golf course was laid out in 1899 on a plot "extending from near the Natural History Building south of the south pasture lot back of the University barn." This course was probably doomed from the start since five of its nine holes occupied space in the university pasture. In 1901 a new cattle barn erected in the pasture prompted the shortening of the third hole to a length of 135 yards. "This is really an improvement as there was no short hole before," a writer in the Illini chirped, attempting to put a positive spin on a bad situation. Two years later, the inevitable happened: the course lost all of the holes in the pasture. And this course was abandoned in 1903.
Alum historian Carl Stephens said a faculty golf club was organized in 1898; the campus itself was the golf course, "running from the site of the present Mathematics building past the Observatory, through cornfields and pastures to the cemetery, and back to a ninth hole at the site of the Chemistry building."
In 1906 a new course was constructed on a thirty-acre plot at what would become the southeast corner of Florida Avenue and Fourth Street. The green fees were cheap—only $1 per semester (or $2 for the whole year)—but that didn't stop golfers from complaining about course inadequacies: indifferent maintenance, short lengths, and unchallenging bunkers. And then there was the not-so-little problem of the fenced-in university orchard lining the course's eastern edge. Errant golf shots frequently ended up deep in the trees. And golfers were not permitted to retrieve the balls they lost in the woods: players scaling the fence and violating the sanctity of the orchard, which was zealously protected by the Department of Horticulture, were subject to arrest and fine.
Perhaps worst of all, the postage-stamp-sized course often suffered from severe overcrowding. As early as 1914, the University Golf Club petitioned the board of trustees for additional acreage for the course "on the ground that the present space is so small as to make the game dangerous." "Groups of players must make the rounds in such close proximity to one another that there is often a danger of being struck by golf balls," the Daily Illini reported in 1931. "Crowded conditions on the course also contribute to the discomfort of the players, for golf balls are both deliberately and accidentally pocketed by other players and urchins." Aware of the course's shortcomings, the Athletic Association offered students discount golf memberships at the Urbana Country Club.
In 1930 University Supervising Architect James White drew up plans for an L-shaped eighteen-hole course that would have sprawled south and west of Memorial Stadium, and late that year the board of trustees endorsed the scheme. But the deepening Depression suppressed enthusiasm for the project, and lack of money killed the plan.
The question of a new golf course was subsumed by both economics and war. Then, in 1948 the board of directors of the Athletic Association—operation of the university golf links having been transferred to the association ten years earlier—proposed to the board of trustees that an eighteen-hole golf course be developed on the Alice N. Kimmel farm about five miles southwest of the campus. The university had purchased this 171-acre farm near Savoy in 1943 with the intention of using it as the site for Willard Airport but was forced to look elsewhere after it had been determined that a portion of the land was too close to the Savoy grain elevator to safely accommodate all of the runways.
The Athletic Association's bold proposal was approved, and in less than two years the course was completed at a cost of some $250,000, having been designed and built by C. D. Wagstaff (class of 1918). Officially opened on May 13, 1950, the links, situated on rolling terrain, provided "a 6,884-yard test of golfing skill with water hazards on four holes," in the words of the Illinois Alumni News.
This course—later dubbed the "Orange Course"—would soon have a "Blue" companion to the south. On December 1, 1958, Hartwell Howard, a U of I student from 1893 until 1895, deeded to the university 154 acres of land adjoining the Savoy links. Howard required the university to devote 110 of the acres to an eighteen-hole golf course—a course that was to give preference to U of I students and faculty on three days of the week, not including Saturdays and Sundays. Hartwell Howard's 6,423-yard "Blue Course" went into operation late in 1965.
The flat nine-holer south of Florida Avenue eventually was eaten up by redevelopment of the land east of Fourth Street that today is occupied by an athletics administration building, basketball practice arena, baseball and softball stadiums, tennis courts, and track and soccer stadium.
Research is in the DNA of big land-grant universities like the Urbana-Champaign campus, where research support from federal agencies and private sources now exceeds direct state taxpayer support for the campus. But even in its earliest days, the campus was deeply engaged in discovery, most prominently in engineering and agriculture—the practical sciences of the late nineteenth century and the bedrock of the land-grant movement.
World War II intensified the federal government's role—as both agenda setter and financial patron—in university-based research. (Postwar private enterprise began farming out and underwriting work to research universities as well.)
The missing piece was commercialization: how to turn federally supported research that had—or could have—practical applications into products and processes that would find their way into the global economy. A change in federal law in 1980 made technology transfer, exploitation, and faculty entrepreneurship easier and more financially rewarding; under the Bayh-Dole Act, federal agencies encouraged research exploitation by creating new incentives for a handful of research-intensive universities and their faculty.
Against that background, the University of Illinois was puzzling through its own technology management and figuring out how best to provide a place for faculty to pursue ideas—products and processes—that had a market. Or might have a market.
In the early 1980s the Urbana-Champaign campus weighed building two research parks–one on the north, near University Avenue, that would focus on engineering, and one on the south, near the South Farms, that would focus on agriculture/life science and veterinary medicine. Two realities militated against two parks. First was the sheer cost in land, construction, time, and effort. Second and more important was the emergent cross-pollination in engineering and agriculture/life sciences and the growth of interest in bioengineering, genomics, materials, software, and the newish field of big data. The fixed lines between old disciplines blurred. Intersections multiplied.
Then, after more than a decade of talk, the U of I acted. In 2000 the U of I opted for a private Champaign-based developer, Fox/Atkins, a partnership of two Champaign men, Peter Fox and Clint Atkins, on U of I land north of Windsor Road and west of South First Street, and renewed the deal ten years later after a second competition. Fox/Atkins leases the land from the campus and builds and leases the buildings, which it turns over to the U of I in fifty years. The park is governed by a separate Research Park LLC with representation from the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.
By the spring of 2013, two years into the new contract, the park had leaped east across South First Street with TechFab3 (Technology Development and Fabrication Center III), a light-industrial building, and a building for Yahoo! near the iHotel and Conference Center, itself a joint venture of Fox/Atkins and the U of I. Grand ambitions contained in a forty-year master plan call for the park to continue growing into 160 acres in that direction. Fourth Street, which once teed into St. Mary's Road, was extended through former South Farms acreage to eventually service the east side of the park.
Including the iHotel complex, as of winter 2015–16 the park has fourteen buildings with nearly 664,000 square feet covering more than two hundred acres, including the new east development area. Established companies come to the park for convenient access to faculty, professional researchers, graduate students, and facilities. Among the ninety companies in residence are Caterpillar and John Deere, Abbott, AbbVie, W. W. Grainger Inc., State Farm, ABInBev (Anheuser-Busch), Dow, Raytheon, Capital One, ADM, Ameren, and Jump Trading. The annual payroll is nearly $60 million and includes about 1,600 jobs, including students who earn an average $18 an hour.
The mix of old-big and new-small is deliberate, said Edward L. McMillan, who in 2016 was chairman of both the board of managers for the Research Park and the board of trustees of the University itself. "That mixture of Fortune 500 and 100 companies, as well as smaller technology-oriented companies [that] wanted to become Fortune 500 companies as well as the mixture of new startup companies has been a great plan," he said in the park's main promotional piece. "Interestingly the larger, well-established companies accelerated the speed at which we could bring internships into the park. That really helped get more employment opportunities for students by getting those larger companies in early."
The park has a special "incubator" building called EnterpriseWorks—built and owned by the university—that specifically focuses on startups that hope to commercialize technology from the U of I. The park says startup companies have attracted some $879 million in venture capital and angel investments from 2003, when the incubator opened, to fiscal 2015. Fully 90 percent of incubator clients are affiliated with university faculty, students, staff, or alumni. HOK Inc. with Henneman Raufeisen and Associates designed EnterpriseWorks, which stands out among the more pedestrian park buildings.
The U of I's research prowess, harnessed to work on new products and enterprises in the Research Park, has earned kudos. EnterpriseWorks was named an Inc.com "10 Start-up Incubators to Watch" and Forbes.com said the park was among twelve top incubators changing the world. The park has received federal grants from the Small Business Administration and Economic Development Administration and from the Illinois Department of Community and Economic Opportunity.
National publications, including Forbes, Popular Mechanics, and Inc. magazine, have named the park to their top 10 lists, and the Association of University Research Parks named the U of I park its 2011 Outstanding Research Park of the Year.
The park, which began as a single building on the old sheep farm, has further pushed the farms south, part of the inexorable north-south movement of the campus from its first year. Motorola was the park's first tenant. On its tenth anniversary, the park renamed the first building to honor the late Clint Atkins, park co-developer and local real estate visionary.
Thomas Arkle Clark
"Perhaps of all the people that ever came into any connection with the University, only `Red' Grange is better known than Dean Clark," the Daily Illini claimed in 1931 when Thomas Arkle Clark retired as the longtimeU of I dean of men.
The legendary Clark—known widely as "Tommy Arkle"—was a controversial figure, seemingly either loved or hated by students. "You were always able . . ., better than almost anyone I have ever known, to temper justice with mercy," a former student once told Clark. But the late New York Times columnist James Reston, a U of I alumnus, considered the dean to be "an arrogant scoundrel who should have been run out of town."
Clark had a hardscrabble childhood. Born Thomas Arkle Metcalf on May 11, 1862, on a farm six miles east of Minonk, a small mining town in north-central Illinois, his mother died soon after his birth. He was reared in the home of an uncle and aunt, William Clark, a miner, and Dorothy Metcalf Clark. Although never legally adopted by the Clarks, Thomas Arkle "naturally fell into the use of the name to avoid explanation and embarrassment," a newspaper said.
In 1869 the Clark family moved to a farm near Rantoul that provided major formative experiences. His uncle died when Thomas Arkle was fifteen years old, and the frail, slender teenager had to take charge of the farm to support his aunt and a disabled cousin. Clark looked back on the years of "pretty hard manual labor" as among the most valuable he ever had. "I am sure that I cultivated self-reliance and judgment; that my observing faculties were strengthened more than almost anything else that I have done," he said.
At age twenty-two the bookish Clark resolved to go to college, although he didn't have a high-school education. One account said he decided on college after noting the "polish" of a visiting friend who had attended college in Kansas. Clark sold his farm's livestock and equipment and moved his family to Champaign, where in 1885 he enrolled in the academy of the University of Illinois—a kind of prep school. He was an excellent student at the U of I both in and out of the classroom, starting the next year, 1886. He later described his four years at the U of I as "in some ways the easiest and pleasantest that I have ever passed." He crowded his days with extracurricular activities and summed up his hectic senior year to a friend: "At that time I was editor of the Illini, President of Philomathean Society, President of the Christian Endeavor Society of the Presbyterian Church, pretty thoroughly in love, and tangled up in politics."
After graduating from college in 1890 and teaching at a Champaign grade school and the university academy, Clark became a U of I instructor of English and rhetoric in 1893. He rose fast and within six years was a full professor, although his highest degree was a bachelor of literature. His close acquaintance with U of I President Andrew Draper (1894–1904) didn't hurt. "No one regrets his going more than I do," Clark wrote of the retiring Draper in 1904, "for in the ten years that he has been here I have been very closely associated with him, and always to my advantage and satisfaction."
In 1901 Draper had launched Clark on his long career as the "dean of deans," naming him dean of undergraduates and assistant to the president. The duties of the new deanship were ill-defined, and Clark shaped the position into that of the students' "judge, jury, and prosecuting attorney" as well as advisor. Clark believed that the primary purpose of college was to develop an individual's moral character; he embodied the prevailing philosophy and practice of in loco parentis: acting in the place of parents. So the dean closely monitored the social lives of students and tried to rein them in with an increasing number of strictly enforced rules. Clark also scrounged up jobs for students, loaned them money, visited them in hospitals, and listened to their troubles.
Edmund Janes James, Draper's successor, changed things, and Clark at times found "official relations" to be unsatisfactory. "I have not had smooth sailing here," he complained to Stanford University President David Starr Jordan. "The students neither desired nor understood the office; and most of the members of the Faculty were either indifferent or opposed to it."
Late in 1908 Jordan had embarked on a campaign to bring Clark to Stanford as dean of students to help eradicate "drinking, loafing and other forms of immorality" at the California school. In a bold power play Clark masterfully leveraged the Stanford job offer and managed to extract from President James a hefty raise (from $3,500 to $5,000) and greater authority for his office, which was soon retitled Dean of Men. "I believe that I am in a position now to get what is coming to me far more completely than I have ever before been," a triumphant Clark confided to ex-President Draper.
Clark would go on to serve as dean of men for more than twenty years, achieving an unprecedented level of control over students with sometimes controversial methods. Some accused him of running "a sort of Russian spy system for the training and upbringing of young men." Reston also believed that this "white-haired old gentleman who looked like Mr. Chipps [sic] and had the heart of a cop" operated "his own CIA." The dean never explicitly denied these charges until shortly before his death, when he asserted that the alleged "spy system" was largely the product of fertile student imaginations. In fact, an informal spy system of sorts does appear to have existed on campus, as Clark revealed in a letter to Stanford's President Jordan. "I could not get on here," the dean said, "if it were not for the fact that in every student organization about the University I have become confidential with the older men, upon whom I rely to help brace up the younger fellows, to correct the things that are wrong, and to take charge of situations among the students which one man alone could not manage."
Clark especially depended on fraternity members to help enforce student discipline. A devoted officer of Alpha Tau Omega, he was a big supporter of the Greek system and helped make the university the fraternity and sorority capital of the world by the 1920s. In 1927 there were ninety fraternities and more than thirty sororities on campus; more than one-third of the entire student body was Greek.
Late in his career Clark began to lose his step and became something of an anachronism. He dismissed the free-spirited decade of the 1920s as "an unconventional era" and had nothing good to say about the so-called "necking" phenomenon then sweeping college campuses. "Intimate physical contact is not necessary to enjoyment between the sexes," the dean asserted. A Daily Illini editor openly wondered whether the mighty dean of men had "at last encountered something which defies even the unlimited powers of the University administrative authorities."
When Harry Woodburn Chase became president in 1930 after the retirement of President David Kinley, the lengthy regime of Thomas Arkle Clark drew to a close. Chase, reflecting the wider national debate about personal responsibility, thought students should be treated as grown-ups, not children. "I am in favor of encouraging students to assume responsibility," Chase said. "We ought not to multiply rules to the point where the individual is robbed of that initiative and responsibility of which I have spoken." The new U of I president was as good as his word. With his prodding, for example, the handbook of student regulations was cut from eighty pages to sixteen. The Council of Administration—the autocratic body that had long overseen student affairs—was unceremoniously scrapped. Students could be absent from classes without permission of the dean's office. The smoking ban was lifted for faculty. In sum, under Chase, the longstanding dean's office policy of widespread oversight of undergraduate conduct was changed to from tight regulation to advising and counseling.
Clark lived long enough to see some of his life's work undone. Retiring as dean of men in 1931, he died from an intestinal tumor less than a year later—on July 18, 1932—at age seventy. Most commentators had nothing but unalloyed praise for Clark at his death. But W. F. Hardy, a columnist for the Decatur Herald, offered a more balanced judgment of the dean of deans. "The tributes to him are sincere," Hardy wrote. "Hundreds of men have left the university regarding Dean Clark as a true friend. Some of them had been in trouble, and had been helped out by the mentor before whom they had been called for punishment. There were others who saw and remembered only the dark side of the dean's face."
A stunt-night ditty about Clark was called "a minor classic" in Carl Stephens's Illini Years: A Picture History of the University of Illinois, 1868–1950:
Oh, the dean of men and womenz
At dear old Illinois
Is a father to the girls
And a mother to the boys.
He looks out for their morals
Especially after dark,
Our matriarchal, patriarchal
Thomas Arkle Clark.
Controversy dogged the Orchard Downs apartments almost from the start. Anticipating continued enrollment surges, the David Dodds Henry administration (1955–1971) announced in January 1956 an ambitious student-housing program. Local landlords quickly objected to the part of the plan that suggested building permanent housing for married students. "It is our opinion that subsidizing underpaid staff members with socialized housing is not the answer to the problem," the Champaign County Board of Realtors said.
In answer, the U of I employed the Real Estate Research Corporation of Chicago to investigate campus housing. The consultant's report said there was a pressing need for married-student housing. "If the amount of private construction does not keep pace with the increase in nonstudent demand for housing," they wrote, "only the construction of housing by the University can prevent a lowering of the quality of housing occupied by married students."
The report also suggested that if the university provided a "substantial quantity of rental housing for married students, there is likelihood that this may make attendance at the University more attractive to prospective students who are married." As many as four hundred married/family housing units could be built without having a negative impact on the private rental market, the consultants said.
So the U of I pressed on with its proposed student-housing program. On November 21, 1957, the board of trustees endorsed building 120 married-student apartment units south of Florida Avenue and east of Orchard Street in Urbana. The university hired the Shapland Construction Company of Champaign, which submitted the low bid, to build these Orchard Place Apartments, named for remnants of the campus's nearby apple orchards. The cost: $914,700.
In a highly unusual move that backfired, the university relinquished its traditional planning and design role and handed this work to architects employed by the contractors. This was called "design-build." Charles Havens, director of the Physical Plant Department, later explained that design-build meant the university could only evaluate the proposals submitted. Havens defended design-build as a time saver; a crash program of building married-student housing was essential. He also said that design-build offered "an opportunity to get the best ideas from contractors as to means of reducing the cost of construction."
Completed by fall 1959, the Orchard Place Apartments almost immediately met a storm of criticism. Members of the Executive Committee (senior faculty) of the College of Fine and Applied Arts argued that "the apartments were not examples, either in individual design or in total land planning, of which the University could be proud." These critics disapproved of the land planning, especially "the grouping of the apartment buildings about a focal point which consists of a paved parking lot." (Dumpsters were added to the parking lots later.) Critics also disliked the design of the apartments themselves. Walter Keith, a professor of landscape architecture, said the units resembled "`barracks' or a `development' of temporary character similar to typical low-cost developments throughout the country."
Process-defender Havens also was not "entirely pleased" with the Orchard Place Apartments, "both as to site plan, the exterior design, and certain phases of construction." In October 1959 Havens and the campus administration recommended to the board of trustees that the university revert to "its previous practice of designing and planning the buildings as a basis for competitive bidding." And in a move hailed by critics, the university established a Campus Development and Site Planning Division, headed by Robert Chamberlin, campus architect. "This new unit, with the consulting services of Sasaki and Associates, gives us every reason to expect that there will be no repetition of the unfortunate site planning and development evidenced in the Orchard Place Apartments," wrote Louis Wetmore, a professor of urban and regional planning.
In rapid order, 252 units in the Orchard Downs Apartments were built immediately south of the Orchard Place Apartments and were completed by the fall of 1961. The planning, design, and landscaping of the Orchard Downs Apartments differed significantly from that of their counterparts to the north, even though the general contractor on the project was again Shapland Construction.
The Orchard Downs housing complex was not quite finished. In a third wave of construction, 252 apartment units were built south of George Huff Drive in 1968. The general contractor on Orchard Downs South was the Consumers Construction Company of Chicago.
By 2003 the university was soliciting proposals for a public-private partnership to redevelop the entire 160-acre complex—viewed as prime real estate between Florida Avenue and Windsor Avenue to the south—into retired senior housing with retail shops and a community center. Five years later, after unrelenting local criticism and disinterest by private developers, the campus shut down the effort, and Orchard Downs continues as family housing.
The Christian Science Building
The Christian Science Building grabbed attention when it opened in 1965 on the northwest corner of Fourth Street and Gregory Drive, just west of the Armory. The ultramodern "Brutalist" corrugated-concrete religious center stood out in a neighborhood of Greek houses, many of them Georgian revival, and the modern "Six Pack" of residence halls to the south.
The Christian Science Building suffered an ignominious fate when a wrecking ball smashed its textured concrete walls a mere twenty years after its construction, the victim of declining church membership and escalating heating costs. In its place rose an ordinary apartment building.
The church building had its genesis in the late 1950s. Trustees of the campus Christian Science Organization wanted a new building for their growing group—"a warm structure with a spiritual atmosphere in which students could meet and study, have lectures and further the cause of Christian Science." Frank Lloyd Wright was chosen to design the building, but his 1959 death forced a change of plans. The well-regarded architect Paul Rudolph, a Kentuckian who studied with Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius at Harvard, was suggested for the commission by student David Hanser, who later earned a PhD in art history, taught at the U of I from 1970 to 1980, and is emeritus professor at Oklahoma State University.
The forty-something Rudolph, then dean of the Yale School of Architecture, enjoyed an international reputation as a leading modernist architect; some critics viewed him as a successor to Wright, a leading modernist. Rudolph's iconoclastic buildings, such as his landmark Yale Art and Architecture Building, were known for their bold uses of space, innovative lighting schemes, and rugged concrete exteriors. They were sculptural and spatially complex.
Costing $325,000, Rudolph's imposing Christian Science Building exhibited all of the hallmarks of his mid-career signature style. The 1,650-square-foot structure's exterior was fortress-like, with a rough concrete veneer: Workers with hammers had carefully chipped the smooth concrete surface. Completing the fortress look, several towers of varying heights capped the building. Inside, the ceilings ranged in height from seven to forty feet on the same floor level, creating "an illusion of great size or intimacy, depending on the number of occupants." Sunshine pouring through the numerous clerestories in the lantern-like towers imparted different moods to the space as the day advanced and the sunlight angles shifted.
Rudolph considered the Champaign structure to be one of his more successful buildings. "At that time I liked the building, and I still like it, which I can't say about all my buildings," he told an interviewer in 1986. The architectural world largely echoed Rudolph's judgment: his Christian Science Building was regularly ranked by outside experts, at the time, as one of the three architecturally noteworthy buildings in Urbana-Champaign. Altgeld Hall and the Assembly Hall (now State Farm Center) are the other two.
But its national reputation couldn't save the Christian Science Building. Dwindling membership and high heating costs prompted the campus Christian Science Organization to sell the structure in 1985 to a real estate developer, who intended to replace it with an apartment complex. Local preservationists and faculty and students from the U of I School of Architecture—late to the local real estate game—tried to persuade the university to purchase the building and property. They failed. It took two weeks instead of the anticipated two days to fell the building in March 1986. Rudolph died in 1997 in New York.
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